WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Duke-Belmont game went pretty much to form in the first half. It's a fast-paced, entertaining affair between a couple of finesse teams that love to fire up three-pointers. Belmont, which is sort of a poor man's Duke, has done a nice job of hanging with the Dookies and trails by seven at the half, 42-35.
Duke's superior size has been a problem. The Blue Devils haven't shot well, but they're getting a lot of offensive rebounds and getting to the foul line. But Belmont is a smart, capable and well-coached team. They've beaten Duke back-door a number of times for layups. Duke is clearly overplaying against the three-pointer and taking its chances on back-door cuts.
Belmont would be even closer if its leading scorer, senior Justin Hare, had been a factor. But Hare has three fouls -- two on very dumb plays -- and hasn't gotten into the game offensively. When he's in the game, he's being guarded by DeMarcus Nelson, the ACC defensive player of the year.
As Xavier's Stanley Burrell showed us in the early game, it can make a huge difference at tourney time to have a defensive stopper against the opponent's most dangerous perimeter threat. If Hare can get involved in the second half, Belmont has a chance to keep things close. But I see this turning into a 20-point Duke rout. I've been wrong before, though, as you can tell by reading my annual predictions.